BREAKING: Hawaii’s Pre-Travel Testing Program to Start Oct. 15
By Wendy Osher
Governor David Ige this afternoon confirmed that the state’s pre-travel testing program will launch on Oct. 15, enabling travelers to get a COVID-19 test no earlier than 72 hours prior to their flight arrival in Hawai‘i to avoid the 14-day mandatory quarantine if the test comes back negative for the virus.
Currently, testing partners include CVS and Kaiser Permanente. Lt. Gov. Josh Green said arriving passengers will remain in quarantine until they get their test result back. The test will cost between$120 to $140 and varies in different parts of the country. Travelers will be responsible for the cost of their test.
As part of the program, those who opt for the test will take an FDA-approved nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) performed using a nasal swab. They will need to show proof of negative test results from a CLIA certified laboratory.
The plan was originally set to launch in August, but has already been pushed back twice. This third delay is 15 days beyond the previously announced Oct. 1 date the governor had announced last month.
The pre-travel test is considered by many in the visitor industry a key factor in reopening the state to tourism. Many hotels have been adjusting their reopening dates based on the state’s projections for the program’s launch.
Kekoa McClellan, spokesperson for the American Hotel and Lodging Association – Hawai‘i responded to the news saying, “We commend Governor Ige on his thoughtful plan to carefully reopen tourism starting on Oct. 15 in a safe manner to enable our local economy to begin recovering. In anticipation of this important milestone, Hawai‘i’s hotels have worked diligently to ensure we’re ready to reopen with enhanced hotel cleaning practices and workplace protocols to navigate the new health and safety challenges presented by COVID-19.”
Lt. Gov. Josh Green said, “Mass testing, contact tracing and pre-travel testing programs are key measures I’ve long-supported. Their implementation, along with a vaccination plan for when they become available, will be critical to our success in managing the coronavirus.”
Maui Mayor Michael Victorino responded to the news during his press conference this afternoon saying, “We’re set to open if that’s what he’s saying. We are ready to do that. I am still pushing for sandwich tests before you come–72 hours; and testing after you arrive to make sure that if you’re COVID-free when you leave, you’re COVID-free when you’re here, and you’re COVID-free when you go home. So I think this is very important as we reopen Maui County.”
There’s been some discussion of an interisland pre-travel test as well to gauge effectiveness ahead of launching a program for mainland arrivals. We asked the governor if there’s been progress on this plan and if he still plans to initiate the program.
“We are in discussions about different ways that we can facilitate interisland travel. As you know, the Senate COVID Committee had made a suggestion of a pilot program. I’ve had a couple of discussions with the mayors, and in fact, as we speak, there is a task force with representation from each county to talk about what that program might look like, how would we implement it and when would we be able to start it,” said Gov. Ige, assuring announcements will be made as progress is made in this area.
Mayor Victorino said he’s still waiting until the daily COVID-19 case numbers on Hawaiʻi Island and Oʻahu come down before changing interisland travel. “We will be integrating both programs and you’ll probably hear from us by late next week how this program will evolve into the Safe Travel program,” he said.
In terms of the interisland travel quarantine, Mayor Victorino said, “We’ll be looking at low double digits across the board, especially for Oʻahu because that’s where a lot of travel seems to disseminate through… If you’re coming from the Big Island, a lot of times you have to come to Maui via Oʻahu… We’re realizing that as long as Oʻahu still has a large number, we’re concerned… When exactly we start will be determined base upon a number of factors. The Department of Health will start looking at that and will be announcing that some time by mid-week next week.”
The interisland quarantine for anyone arriving on any island other than O‘ahu continues through Sept. 30, unless terminated or extended by a separate emergency proclamation.
Gov. Ige today said the state’s response to COVID-19 has always been driven by the “need to protect the health and safety of community.”
New Leadership Team, Realignment of COVID-19 Efforts Announced
He announced new leadership responsible for moving the state’s COVID-19 effort forward to include:
• Maj. Gen. Ken Hara, director, Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency, continues his role as incident commander, spearheading the collaboration between federal, state and county resources to address the pandemic response.
• Dr. Libby Char, director, State Department of Health, is responsible for the management of the state’s public health programs and collaboration between state, county, and private healthcare partners.
• Lt. Gov. Josh Green will spearhead the pre-travel testing program, which includes adding partners to administer the tests and sourcing new testing options and is also responsible for planning the state’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy.
• Dr. Virginia Pressler, former director of the State Department of Health, has volunteered to lead the Laulima Alliance, a cross functional team of public and private sector resources, ensuring that all have a voice in policy making and implementation of programs responding to the pandemic.
Gov. Ige said there are many moving parts that are all interrelated. He identified several challenges and priorities for the state’s Pandemic Action Plan including:
- Protecting the public health: This includes effectively tracing, testing and isolating the virus, finalizing a vaccination strategy.
- Reviving the economy: This includes the launch the state’s pre-travel testing program and getting people into new jobs.
- Strengthening the community: This includes distribution of CARES Act funds, minimizing housing loss, facilitating safe return of students and teachers to the classroom.